Summer 2014: Iah231a – What does it mean to be human?


General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: TTH
Time: 3:00 PM – 6:50 PM
Place: 226 Erickson Hall


Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 S. Kedzie Hall
Hours: After class, and by appointment

Other Contact

Home Phone: please ask


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department (and in front of my office, 518 South Kedzie)


May 13, Introduction
Augustine, chapter 1, Confessions (copy in class)

May 15, Freedom
Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

May 20, Dreams, Sexuality, Repression
Freud, The Freud Reader; On Dreams, pp.142-172; Infantile Sexuality, pp.259-279; Repression+The Unconscious, pp.568-583

May 22, Culture and Civilization
Freud, The Freud Reader; Civilization and its Discontents, pp.722-772

May 27, Society and Civilization
Rousseau, Second Discourse, part 1 and beginning of part 2

May 29, Death
Poetry by John Donne (copy in class)
Film: Edson, W;t (played by E. Thompson)
Film response paper assignment passed out in class

June 3, Culture and Language
Cassirer, An Essay on Man, chapter 1-3

June 5, Culture and Language
Cassirer, An Essay on Man, chapter 4-6

June 10, Gender
Beauvoir, The Second Sex, part one, pp.3-70

June 12, Technology and Art
Haraway, On Cyborgs (per email)
Tarkovsky, On Art (video material in class)

June 17, Faith
Tarkovsky, On Film (pdf per email)
Film: Tarkovsky, Stalker

June 19, Faith
Tarkovsky, On Film (pdf per email)
Film: Tarkovsky, Stalker
Film response paper assignment passed out in class

June 24,
in-class essay exam

June 26,
no class
Film response paper assignment due by email

Course Description

Who are we? What are we? What does it mean to be a human being? This integrative studies lecture class will discuss selected aspects of a philosophy of culture by reflecting on the human condition. In this vein, we will consider the following questions: What does it mean to be human from a humanist and anti-humanist perspective? Is there a specifically non-scientific response to this questions? Why are certain aspects of human life so important? How are humans differentiated from other entities in the universe, such as God, non-human animals, and stones? After introducing traditional answers to the question of what human beings are, from the perspective of Augustine (theology), Sartre (existentialism), Rousseau (social), and Freud (psychology) we will – from a general human point of view – reflect on central aspects of the human condition, such as religion, history, culture and language, by studying Ernst Cassirer’s An Essay on Man. In addition, we will discuss two films: “Stalker” by Andrej Tarkovsky (topic: faith), as well as “W;t” by Margaret Edson (topic: death).

IAH Course Goals

Integrative Studies at MSU seeks to assist students to become more familiar with ways of knowing in the arts and humanities and to be more knowledgeable and capable in a range of intellectual and expressive abilities. IAH courses encourage students to engage critically with their own society, history, and culture(s); they also encourage students to learn more about the history and culture of other societies. They focus on key ideas and issues in human experience; encourage appreciation of the roles of knowledge and values in shaping and understanding human behavior; emphasize the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship; highlight the value of the creative arts of literature, theater, music, and arts; and alert us to important issues that occur among peoples in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world.


Real learning is not properly measured by multiple-choice tests; especially since in the humanities there is no specific content of a sort that may be covered well in standardized examinations, which every student in the humanities should be expected to master. Instead, you will – hopefully – come to recognize that this class is about a general intellectual reflection on what we are and why we are here. The class deals with your dignity as human beings and with your intellect and reason, which is best expressed in a form of learning that is based on understanding and insight, and not mere learning by heart. It is hoped that the class will stimulate the view that intellectual activity (and therefore human reality) has to do with the passion of thinking, and the passion of understanding of our world. Intense confrontation with texts is the center of this class.

Specific Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • selected interdisciplinary views on human nature
  • the idea that human culture is the expression and objectification of human activity
  • the idea that every form of scientific and academic inquiry presupposes a conception of human nature, and that it is important for every academic discipline to reflect on this conception
  • the basic ideas about human life as a whole (from a non-naturalistic standpoint)
  • faith and meaning as essential components of human life
  • the role of symbols, language and thought in human life
  • the role of memory, death, and freedom for human existence

Required Texts (Bookstore)

  • Cassirer, An Essay on Man : An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture
  • Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism
  • Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
  • Freud, The Freud Reader

Texts per email (pdf)

  • Augustine, Confessions, First chapter
  • Haraway, Cyborgs

Course Organization

The course will be organized such that, ideally, each class period will include [i] “interactive” lecture, [ii] discussion time or [iii] response time. Students will be asked to intensively prepare a certain text or part of a text for the next class period.

Course Requirements

  • Daily intensive reading and studying (around 10 pages)
  • 5 response sheets
  • 1 final in-class essay exam
  • 2 short film response papers
  • Unnanounced assignments (reading quizes, group assignments, homework assignments)
  • Participation


The class and my lectures are solely based on the texts selected for class and require a thorough study and preparation of the material. I will primarily lecture on the readings, which will help you to more fully understand the texts. Therefore it is not sufficient for students to come to class without having prepared the texts. And indeed, in the exams you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.


Every academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, will – without exception – lead to a failing grade in class. Check the Ombudsman’s page (see also note below on plagiarism):

Make-Up Assignments

Students who need to miss the exam or the movie for excusable reasons (medical+MSU related business) must inform me ahead of time, and will be permitted to make up the exam and movie assignment. I will only accept written documentation.

Class Attendance

I hope and strongly encourage that students attend all lectures. However, I will not require attendance, as I think that college students should manage their own class attendance decisions. Nevertheless, please be aware that you should not make me responsible for a failure that results out of your decision. You should be aware that chances to master this class are minimal, if you do not show up for class or if you do not prepare the readings (=studying).

Unannounced Assignments

There will be announced and unannounced reading quizzes, homework-assignments, and group assignments. Students who do not attend class (and have no written documentation) will lose all points. Reading quizzes, homework assignments, and group assignments cannot be made up.

Class Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit up to 5 class response sheets during the semester. Please download the form here (plus: print it out five times and add it to your class folder). Response sheets must be submitted at the end of a class session. I do not accept late turn ins or turn ins by email.

Download response sheet (I will only accept answers that are given on this form)


Students are not allowed to turn in response sheets during the last week of class!

Final Exam

There will be an in-class final essay exam. I will give you several options and questions related to the class material.

Reaction Papers

There will be two 3-page (up to 900 words) paper assignment related to the two films in class. As we will discuss these films intensively in class, you need to show up on those days, as otherwise you might receive a failing grade for your papers.

Course Evaluation


1 final in class essay exam 20 points
2 film reaction papers (up to 900 words) 20 points
unannounced reading quizzes, homework assignments, and group assignments 35 points
participation 10 points
response sheets (use form) 15 points
100 points


4.0 (=A) 100 – 93
3.5 92 – 87
3 (=B) 86 – 82
2.5 81 – 77
2 (=C) 76 – 72
1.5 71 – 65
1.0 (=D) 64 – 60
0.0 < 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops and cell phones in class. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.

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